A garden on wheels keeps plants safe from hail

A novel way to protect growing vegetables from weather damage.


 J.D. Ward inspects the neat rows of seedlings in his vegetable garden. He checks for signs of a weed invasion among the leafy stretches of corn, peas, and red beets. He then looks at the cloud-dappled bright blue sky overhead and says he isn't worried about the next hailstorm taking out his fledgling sprouts.

After all, he planted a garden that can easily roll indoors.  (Click here to see a photo of his mobile garden.)

Mr. Ward framed a 6-by-8-foot trailer with wooden planks to form an artificial planter almost a foot deep. The box holds a mixture of compost and topsoil more than two feet off of the ground. He says he doesn't have to crawl on his hands and knees to tend his garden, so he can enjoy his hobby as he recovers from back surgery.

"I never heard of anybody else doing it," he says of his unusual planting. "But once I thought of it, it made a lot of sense."

He adds that he looks forward to avoiding the frosts that could ruin his handiwork overnight.

But did anyone think it was a crazy idea? His wife, Eileen, shoots her hand straight up and says she did. "I thought it was ridiculous. I thought the soil would be too heavy for a trailer. And I didn't think he could move it if [the soil] was wet.

"I was wrong," she adds.

Ward began to build his portable garden in May after a spring hailstorm wiped out the flowers he and his wife planted the night before. The icy chunks came with winds strong enough to peel paint and shingles off their home. But the storm got him to think about how he could grow a protected garden.

Ward says that when his plants grow a little larger, he plans to hitch it to a truck, drive it to the golf club, and show off his latest creation.

It would be even funnier, he jokes, if he took his vegetables on wheels to the farmers' market at the end of the summer. Then shoppers could pick their produce straight off the vine,.

"It wouldn't get much fresher than that," Ward says.

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